OLN loses bid to air live hockey, football

Stick and ball sports left to mainstream cable sports channels

TORONTO -- Canada's Outdoor Life Network (OLN) channel has lost a bid to air live stick and ball sports like hockey and football.

The CRTC, Canada's TV regulator, told parent Rogers Broadcasting that pro sports where players maneuver a ball or puck will be left to mainstream cable sports channels like Rogers' Sportsnet.

"Due to the potential synergies between OLN and Sportsnet, also a Rogers service, the (CRTC) commission is of the view that OLN should continue to be explicitly prohibited from broadcasting professional sports to prevent the use of OLN as a second window for Sportsnet," the regulator ruled.

OLN will instead be restricted to airing outdoor sports like the Tour de France and off-road vehicle racing, in addition to primetime travel and reality shows like "Dog the Bounty Hunter," "Operation Repo" and "Word Travels."

Rogers' failed bid to get pro stick and ball sports on OLN is understandable. Despite the high cost of TV sport rights, Canadian cable sport channels like the Sports Network, Rogers Sportsnet and the Score remain among the most profitable domestic TV services.

That's in addition to main networks like CTV, Global Television and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that depend on pro sports telecasts to offset dwindling ad dollars from Canadian and American scripted series.

And local general sports services lead a pack that includes niche channels like ESPN Classic, Fox Sports World Canada, NHL Network and the Fight Network, all competing for subscriber fees and ad dollars.

The CRTC did throw OLN a bone in allowing the outdoor lifestyle channel to air sitcoms, animated movies and TV series, and to air more dramas, including American series.
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